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The Fur Person (1957)

de May Sarton

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6632335,435 (4.13)68
May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance begins with a fiercely independent, nameless street cat who follows the ten commandments of the Gentleman Cat--including "A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, not even loving constraint." But after several years of roaming, Tom has grown tired of his vagabond lifestyle, and he concludes that there might be some appeal after all in giving up the freedom of street life for a loving home. It will take just the right human companion, however, to make his transformation from Cat About Town to genuine Fur Person possible. Sarton's book is one of the most beloved stories ever written about the joys and tribulations inherent in sharing one's life with a cat. This edition, beautifully illustrated with 9 new color watercolors by Jared Williams, will continue to be an enduring favorite.… (mais)
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The Fur Person is a short novella by poet/authoress May Sarton who tells about the stray cat that found it’s way into her home and her heart. Considering himself a Cat About Town, he has lived a fairly carefree life but he decides it is time to become a Gentleman Cat and find a home. He is most particular over his requirements but believes he has found the perfect home with the two ladies that take him in. Of course it wouldn’t be a May Sarton book without some poems, and our Gentleman Cat offers up some excellent rhymes.

Renamed Tom Jones he goes through a few stages where he is Terrible Jones, the fighter, then, after being fixed he becomes Gentle Cat, Cat of Peace, Glorious Jones and, finally Fur Person. This is an author who obviously knows and understands cats and above all, allows Tom Jones to maintain his dignity. The story is simple and charming being based on the life of Sarton’s cat, but avoids crossing over into become too sweet. The book has some lovely illustrations by David Canright and was originally published in 1957. It has withstood the test of time and will be greatly appreciated by those of us who have had the pleasure of having a cat in their life. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 1, 2024 |
Cute, and a loving portrait of a dear pet with an imagined history, but all cats and dogs and many other non-humans are persons with or without having to have a relationship with one of our sorry lot, so the last paragraphs tanked the book for me. The added bit in this 1978 edition about Nabokov was splendid. ( )
  quondame | May 3, 2023 |
Best Cat Lover's Book Ever

Put your hands in the paws of a Gentleman cat and live his life. WOW! Everything I always thought my cat was thinking, experiencing or observing has been totally updated! I love this book, from the growling to the purring to the gentle emotions. Please pass this on to your cat loving friends, they'll thank you for it! ( )
  Windyone1 | May 10, 2022 |
One of my favourite books about animals. A gentle, humorous story with no trauma written from the point of view of the cat. I enjoyed it very much.

Reread 2018 - still much loved, especially since this year I adopted a cat. ( )
  Karen74Leigh | Sep 4, 2019 |
Poet / Author May Sarton (1912-1995) was born in Belgium to Belgian parents. She and her folks lived in Belgium for the first two years of her life. When, in 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm sent his army storming through Belgium on its way to Paris, Sarton's family grabbed what they could carry and fled to a relative's home in Ipswich, England, and thence -- a year later -- to the United States.

Sarton's mother was an artist; her father was a historian of science. In America, while her father worked at Harvard University, daughter May attended school in Cambridge, Mass. She studied Theatre, but Poetry was her true calling. She published her first book of verse, "Encounter in April," in 1937. Wikipedia tells that Sarton traveled to Santa Fe, NM, in 1945. While in Santa Fe, Sarton met a woman named Judy Matlack, who became her partner until the couple separated in 1956.

During her life, Sarton wrote and published dozens of books. Poetry, nonfiction, novels and a couple of children's stories rolled in profusion off her typewriter. Her bibliography lists "The Fur Person" (1957) as Sarton's eighth novel. This reader feels that If other books she wrote were as good or better than "The Fur Person," Ms. Sarton had a wonderful career and was a great success. She certainly worked hard and long enough to attain it.

"The Fur Person" is a fantasy-biography, supposedly the story of a knight-errant tomcat that moved in with Sarton and Matlack at some time or other. When it happened doesn't matter. What matters is the cat and the story of his life with the two women.

The story is that the cat grew from an orphaned kitten whose mother disappeared before his eyes were open. He was taken from the litter (The rest went to a shelter.) by a little boy and bottle-fed until he learned to feed himself. At the age of six months, having decided he'd rather be a "cat-about-town," the half-grown tomcat left the boy who had nurtured him.

Now begins what this writer calls "The Tragedy of Terrible Tom Jones".

For two years the errant tomcat enjoyed his freedom, gallivanting about, eating what and sleeping where and when he pleased. He hunted; he sired kittens; he got in fights. He had all the adventures that come naturally to roving tomcats. He fancied himself happy as a "gentleman-cat-about-town," but then he started having strange dreams.

The dreams involved gentle hands, warm milk, creamed haddock, a blazing hearth. The dreams left him oddly attracted to human beings -- especially old ladies who keep clean houses, cook fish, and take in homeless cats. So, by and by, the gentleman-cat-about-town began consciously seeking a home -- preferably a home with a housekeeper and chef at his command.

Poor fellow: in his wildest dreams, he never dreamed of the ways in which his dreams could change his life.

He first tried a seemingly nice old lady, who took him and and shut him in her tiny, grubby apartment. There he had no privacy because the old woman followed him everywhere and couldn't keep her hands off him. The food was barely passable and the old lady was creepin' him out, so he left.

At large again, he wandered for days before the aroma of boiled cod lured him into the nice, clean kitchen of another house. He was about to enjoy a tasty handout when a big, blue-eyed, long-haired, white cat -- already in residence -- charged into the kitchen, bowled our hungry protagonist over and knocked him right out the door.

Alas: No boiled cod for supper! Nameless vagabond adventurer, gentleman-cat-about-town fled into the night screeching poetic vitriol:

"May your milk turn sour;
May your fish taste queer,
And your meat look strange,
From this very hour;
May your blue eyes blear;
May you get the mange."

Soon enough, Protagonist Puss learned caution and manners and better ways to approach his marks. Sure enough, there came a day when two gentle ladies thought they'd fallen in love with him. Gentle Voice and Brusque Voice (as he thought of them) adored his pretty, expressive tail with its snow-white tip, his sparkling clean, white shirt-front, his strikingly bold, black-and-cream striping.

In short, Puss was handsome, neat, clean, polite, friendly and playful. He seemed to love and respect both of the ladies, who seemed to love and respect him in turn. Puss hated water like most cats, but still: things went swimmingly for a few days.

The women couldn't think what to call their new house-guest. They didn't figure it out until one day Puss got into an awful scrap with another tomcat when both males assumed possession of the 'girl' next door. Even as such things go it was a terrible, nasty fight. Gentleman Cat got all bitten and sliced up, as did the other fellow in turn.

Brusque Voice and Gentle Voice then dubbed their new boyfriend "Terrible Tom Jones," which -- of course -- was a play on the titular character in Fielding's doorstop novel. The ladies felt that the cat and the character -- being of like disposition and possessed of a similar taste in females -- should share the name. They also felt that they didn't want to see a rematch of that fight. So they took Tom Jones to a veterinarian, whom they paid to remove Tom's love life.

Here ends the story of Terrible Tom Jones, and here begins the story of 'The Fur Person,' after whom Ms. Sarton named the book. So I will end this review after drawing a lesson or two from what follows:

To neuter a kitten as soon as his testicles descend is one thing -- the youngster hasn't learned to use his male parts and probably doesn't even know what they're good for. A youngster's parts are tiny, seldom so big as a couple of pine nuts. The hormones that will shape his natural adulthood have scarcely begun to flow. The veterinary gives the kitten a shot that renders him insensible. The vet then makes a cut that is almost no cut at all and removes what the kitten's owner claims are a pair of undesirable parts. Finally, the vet staples the wound shut, the youngster wakes up and, to all appearances, seems unaffected by the operation. Barring a bungled procedure or a post-procedural infection, there are no problems.

On the other hand: to neuter a 3-year-old, fully mature tomcat is a cruel and ugly thing to do or have done. Ms. Sarton's own account tells readers that castration made the former Tom Jones so sick he nearly died. Tommy came out of the ether with a bad and persistent case of the coughs. His hair fell out. Along with his beautiful coat he lost his pride and his appetite, and with his appetite went his strength. There were hormonal adjustments to be made -- naturally -- and Tom, finding himself suddenly a weakling and a coward, had to bear the insults heaped upon him by other cats in the neighborhood.

As Tommy convalesced, his world grew ever smaller because he stayed more and more indoors. In time, the coughs went away. His hair came back; he grew fat and lazy from lack of exercise and too much rich food; he slept most all the time. The women made a catnip addict of him: because the herb seemed to cheer him up, they made sure he got plenty of it. In lieu of the birds and rodents that once shrieked and quavered and fled in fear of Terrible Tom -- the creatures whose bones he once crushed, whose hot blood he once drank with gleeful relish -- the ladies gave him a nice, cold, boneless, bloodless, rubber mouse that squeaked a bit when he bit it. The women gazed adoringly at the creature they had created and thought their creation good.

Such was the tragedy of Terrible Tom Jones: He finally found the home of his dreams, which quickly turned into a nightmarish trap. He no longer dared to venture outside, let alone go a-roving. As months passed and memories faded, he no longer cared for the things that had once given him a rich variety of feline pleasures. He cared for nothing so much as creamed haddock, a little catnip, and a warm lap. 'Fur Person' was a lesser being whose life was a lesser place.

Brusque Voice and Gentle Voice, for their part, were so pleased by the creature they'd created that they stripped it of its old name. 'Terrible Tom Jones' was no more. That creature was dead but was born again as a human being, thenceforth known to everyone in the house as "The Fur Person".

So it's this way, boys and girls: "The Fur Person" is truly well written and reads real cute. David Canright's pen-and-ink illustrations are swell. Ms. Sarton's poetry is sweet and her little book works fine as kiddie lit -- if one reads it to kiddies who know nothing about the facts of life and don't ask for explanations of atrocities perpetrated, euphemised, and glossed over by the author.

Beyond those good points, May Sarton's cat story seems to have two morals: 1) you can't be a human being as long as you got a pair; 2) if you've got women in the house and happen to get busted up in a fight, don't let those women take you to a doctor.

Solomon Sed

"The Fur Person"
May Sarton
ISBN 0393301311
W. W. Norton & Company, 1978
106 pp. Prices vary. ( )
  NathanielPoe | Feb 12, 2019 |
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May Sartonautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Canright, DavidIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Knox, BarbaraIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Williams, Jared TaylorIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Of course, The Fur person was a real, not an imaginary, cat
When he was about two years old, and had been a Cat About Town for some time, glorious in conquests, but rather too thin for comfort, the Fur Person decided that it was time he settled down.
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May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance begins with a fiercely independent, nameless street cat who follows the ten commandments of the Gentleman Cat--including "A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, not even loving constraint." But after several years of roaming, Tom has grown tired of his vagabond lifestyle, and he concludes that there might be some appeal after all in giving up the freedom of street life for a loving home. It will take just the right human companion, however, to make his transformation from Cat About Town to genuine Fur Person possible. Sarton's book is one of the most beloved stories ever written about the joys and tribulations inherent in sharing one's life with a cat. This edition, beautifully illustrated with 9 new color watercolors by Jared Williams, will continue to be an enduring favorite.

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